I was watching the news a short while ago, and they were discussing the recent deadly tornadoes down in Joplin. They were reporting on supposed happy endings that have come out of the tragedy, and something in particular caught my attention.
They followed up with a man they first met last week. He is getting married today. Last week after the tornado, he and his fiance were out and about trying to find friends and family. They were lucky enough to not have any of their loved ones killed. Some of the survivors had put out signs saying "God Saved Us" and "God Bless Joplin." This really disturbed me. I can understand being glad that your own loved ones are alive and well, but what about all those who died? "God" did not bless Joplin, because in the next clip there was a woman talking about how she spent four hours in the morgue just helping to identify the dead. So what does that mean? God blessed only a select few Joplin citizens, or he chose a select few to kill? The guy's fiance said something to the effect of there's nothing like a near death experience to strengthen your love for someone. So they're getting married today and moving on with their happy ending, while many of their neighbors are holding funerals.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to enjoy their happiness just because others are suffering. There will always be suffering in the world. But I can't stand it when people claim that God is the source of that happiness, instead of seeing the reality that random things happen in life. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Sometimes it happens to you and sometimes it happens to others. It has nothing to do with being "blessed." But according to these folks, the reason they're happily walking down the aisle today is because God was merciful enough to spare their lives. Religious people love this kind of ridiculous rationalization of random events. If something good happens, then it's "Praise Jesus! Ain't God good!" If something bad happens, then it's "The work of the devil!" "Get behind me Satan!" What an oversimplified, convenient, and infantile view of the world. Completely devoid of any intellectual curiosity and independent thought.
I've had this kind of thing happen in my own life. A few years ago, I went through a very difficult personal situation. I'm not too proud to say that it was an emotional pain that brought me to my knees. I tried to discuss it with my mother, and instead of her really listening to me she just spouted her typical "give it to God" type of advice. "God loves you. This ain't nothing but the devil." Huh? Ma, you do realize that makes no sense, right? I remember being told as a child that I wasn't supposed to question God (even as a young child I knew there were some shenanigans going on, but I wasn't able to completely grasp it nor articulate what I felt at that age). As an adult, I told my mother that I never agreed with her about not questioning God. Back when I still kinda/sorta believed (or at least wanted to believe), I was questioning him all the time. I told her that I constantly questioned God. Her response -- "Well, you can question him, but that doesn't mean he's going to answer you." Sadly, she didn't even see that her own statement was an argument for NOT believing instead of believing.
As much as I love my mother, she is firmly in the "God saved us" camp. After all, many people survived the tornado. Many people are still walking around and breathing today. So it's ok that one family gets to celebrate at a wedding while another mourns at a funeral. It's not only ok, but we should rejoice about it and be grateful, because God made it so. It's not our place to question why.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply. I agree with pretty much all of your sentiments.
Minute to Minute -- yes, God does indeed get a free pass. It never made sense to me why an all-knowing, all-powerful God would just sit back and just let horrible things happen to his own (supposedly) creation, allowing all kinds of pain and suffering and doing nothing to intervene. Whenever I've tried to have this type of discussion with Christians, they immediately become defensive. They come back with something like you're supposed to count your blessings, things could always be worse, etc. When something really bad happens, they either claim that it's the devil or God is teaching you a lesson. How hateful is that? It makes about as much sense as a parent seeing their child playing in the street, but just standing by and letting him get hit by a car instead rushing over to save him because, well, he's gotta learn. If the kid survives, I'm sure he will think twice about stepping into the street again. But what a price he had to pay for that lesson.
The exact same thing happened to me yesterday.
I was telling my father about how I had a psychiatrist appointment tomorrow (or today, rather) because my psychologist recommended that I be put back on my medicine for psychotic depression. He asked me why that was necessary if my symptoms were improving (he doesn't really know because I don't tell him anything; everything I say to him is subject to a lecture that I've already heard at least 4 times) and I gave him a progression of my symptoms since January. These progressed from paranoid psychosis in January and February to severely depressed and suicidal in March, then I was fine in April but started to get worse in May. He says (fussing, in a damn public place where people can hear us!!!), "Ok. Do you believe in the Bible? Do you know you will go to Hell (already there, Dad)? Going to Hell forever, who that's gon help?" before continuing in his usual manner, giving me solutions and such to a suicide problem I don't have anymore (the man's IQ, I estimate, is no more than 85, logical thinking isn't his forte). I should have countered his question with "Do you believe in the Lord of the Rings books? The were written by men just like the Bible was!" but I didn't feel it was the best decision to make at the time. It won't happen again though.
But anyway, I feel your pain. That's the state of mind religion puts people in; thinking that the best way to MAKE your child appreciate life is to make him scared shitless to die. That and of course the old diatribe about people who are doing much worse. Why should I ignore my bullet wound just because the guy next to me got his arm cut off?
Hi Albert. I'm sorry to hear about what you've been going through. It is never easy discussing these types of issues, especially with people who simply refuse to acknowledge that what you feel is valid even if they don't understand it.
I worked with a young lady a few years ago whose teenage cousin committed suicide. My co-worker is Christian, and every once in a while she would start with one of her "the Bible says" stories, but for the most part we were cool. Anyway, after her cousin killed himself, she told me that there were some relatives at the funeral who actually came up to the kid's mother and told her that they were sorry he was going to hell for committing suicide. Some of them went on about how "black people don't do that." Well, obviously your stereotype is wrong considering you're at the funeral of a black person who did. These were supposedly good, God-fearing, Christian people, and relatives at that. That's how they chose to comfort a mother who was mourning the loss of her child. I will never understand how some people can be so brainwashed and completely removed from basic common sense.